Eurovision TV hosts announced as count down to Liverpool’s huge event gathers pace

Mick the Ram

Feb 22, 2023

​The BBC, who accepted an invitation to step in to host Eurovision 2023 on Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC’s behalf due to the on-going war in their country with Putin’s Russia, has announced its presenting line-up for what is annually the world’s biggest international song contest, and which will take place in Liverpool in May of this year.

They have opted for an all-female trio of presenters for the knock out stages, with Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham, joining Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina, to oversee which 20 countries make the final, alongside the six already guaranteed.

These three will front the two semi-finals and will then be joined by UK chat show host Graham Norton, for the grand final on Saturday, 13 May. The Ukrainian broadcaster Timur Miroshnychenko is understood to have also been invited to be involved in the live shows.

It is expected that more than 160 million people will tune in to watch the competition globally. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) asked the UK to take over the responsibility from last years winners Ukraine, due to them being the runners-up at the event, held in Turin. The hand over from the Italian city to Liverpool took place on 31 January, along with the draw for the for the semi-final line-ups.

The city has also announced that there will be a Eurovision Song Contest fan zone which will host events for up to 25,000 people at its Pier Head throughout the early part of May.

The presenters

Curve ball, was one expression delivered, after West-End and Broadway Emmy-award winning actress Hannah Waddingham was revealed as one of the three female presenters to host Liverpool’s Eurovision extravaganza, in the early weeks of May. The Game of Thrones star said it would be “a great privilege” to be involved in what she called “one of the world’s greatest music festivals.”

She added that this year perhaps more than ever, it would be “Such a great honour to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, a country which has carried itself with such strength and unity.”

She will also stand shoulder to shoulder with two other women, Alesha Dixon and Julia Sanina. The  former member of R&B, garage and hip hop group Mis-Teeq, successful solo singer and popular Britain’s Got Talent judge said: ”There is just something about the buzz and anticipation of a live show that can’t be rivalled.” Ms Dixon went on to say how for her, Eurovision delivers that excitement, creativity and talent, but on a vast, global scale.

Ms Sanina, is the front-woman of Ukrainian alternative band The HARDKISS. She was naturally excited to have been invited and said she wanted to showcase her country’s culture and creativity and help put on a show to make Ukraine proud. She added: “I can’t wait to get to Liverpool and meet the fans and the rest of the Eurovision family.”

Graham Norton, now almost part of the Eurovision furniture in the UK, will continue his regular commentating duties at the final, as well as joining the three ladies on stage. He called the event “the greatest show on earth”, adding that he regarded his participation every year as a huge honour, but this year especially: “I personally feel a big responsibility to make our Ukrainian colleagues proud.”

Huge spectacle

The Eurovision Song Contest began back in 1956, almost as something of an experiment, but it has since grown into a huge international spectacle and celebration. Every year an army of dedicated fans are glued to the TV’s all over not just Europe, but the world, and this year for the first time viewers outside of the Eurovision countries will also be able to enjoy the entertainment and join in with the public voting.

There will be 37 countries competing, although only 26 of these will make it to the final. Participating broadcasters have around a month left to confirm the song and artist that they will be sending to represent their country.

UK happy to step in for Ukrainian winners

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won last year in Turin, Italy, with their song Stefania, with the UK’s Sam Ryder coming a very creditable runner-up with his song Space Man. Indeed, he actually won on the votes from the judges of the other competing nations, but understandably the public vote overwhelmingly supported the Ukrainian entrant.

Under normal circumstances they would have won the right to host the following year’s contest, but with the awful events continuing and showing no sign of ending in their country, it was inevitable that a decision would have to be made to host the competition elsewhere this year.

As the second placed nation, the UK were approached by the organisers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and asked to host it on Ukraine’s behalf, an invite which was naturally accepted immediately. Liverpool were the successful bidders amongst strong opposition, and as a consequence, the contest will take place at the city’s M&S Bank Arena, situated on its waterfront.

Turin hands over the key

It will actually be the ninth time the UK has hosted the competition, and the fifth time it has hosted on behalf of other countries, previously as a result of financial, or capacity issues. Although the final is not until Saturday 13 May, the build up has already started.

On the last day of last month the mayor of Turin – hosts last year – handed over the symbolic Eurovision key to his counterpart in Liverpool, Joanne Anderson. Additionally the draw took place to decide the semi-final line-ups, which will be shown live on Tuesday 9 May and Thursday 11 May.

Semi-final line-ups

The first semi-final has 15 countries competing: Azerbaijan, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The second semi-final has 16 countries competing: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, San Marino, and Slovenia.   

Only ten countries will go through from each, decided by a public vote, and they will join what are known as the “big-five”. These are: Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the UK, who because they pay more to the EBU, they automatically guarantee themselves a place in the final. Here they will also be joined by last years winners, Ukraine, to complete a final of 26 countries, who will go on to battle it out for Eurovision glory.

No chance of an Australian hosted final

Several countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Israel are actually classed as Asian nations, but are allowed to compete as they are members of the EBU. In Australia’s case, the competition had been hugely popular in that country for decades, and in 2015 they were invited to perform as part of celebrations to mark the 60th year of the song contest.

Such was the success that they have been given permission to keep competing. They pay a fee to the EBU to take part in the same way as all of the other European countries do and were they ever to win the show, it has already been agreed that they would have to nominate a European co-host, who would stage the competition the following year, on their behalf.  

Voting system best left to the experts

The voting system for the final does get complicated, with all 26 of the competing countries selecting their own jury, who will rank each of the songs, allocating a set number of points and these are announced live on the night. These are then added to by viewer votes, and then public votes from the rest of the world will be counted as if they are one other country and points will be allocated as such.

It is normally getting quite late in the evening/night by the time this comes around, so the majority of viewers simply let it happen and go with the flow.

Fan zone part of 3 weeks of great events for the city

The confirmation that there will be a Eurovision Song Contest fan zone, hosting upwards of 25,000 people at the city’s Pier Head, has been greeted with great excitement. The official Eurovision village will also be located at the site, with both of them very close to the venue of the song contest itself.

A licensing application is seeking permission to stage plays, films, music and dance events between 1 and 20 May is expected to be granted shortly, to create a fabulous three week carnival atmosphere.

Local government commits millions to the event

As with anything, there are always some negative noises and with this it is the cost, especially as the UK is in the grip of a cost of living crisis, and nowhere more so than in the north west of the country, in which Liverpool sits centrally. Local government in and around the city and immediate areas has committed £4m for the side-events and attractions, which will include the big screens and stages for live music at the fan zone.

Broadcaster to meet most of the costs of staging Eurovision

The UK government are also contributing to costs, but it is the BBC who will meet the bulk of the finances in its role as host broadcaster. All broadcasters are charged a fee to take part, with the “big-five” paying more than the others. These sums are not put into the public domain, but the total cost between all entrants normally adds up to around £5m, with the host paying a further sum.

The likes of Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro, who all failed to make it past last year’s semi-finals, pulled out of this year’s competition, due to money concerns.

Turin profits should ease worries

However, just a glance at what happened in Turin last year should be enough to pacify even the harshest of critics. Officials there reported their spending to be somewhere around £10m, but they say they received back a figure that was SEVEN times that amount, from the additional events they put on and hospitality.

Ukraine remembered

Speculate to accumulate is very much the phrase that comes to mind, and early indications are that Liverpool is going to do pretty well out of Eurovision and as such their respect, admiration, and love of Ukraine should increase enormously.

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